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Bolts Return Home Looking to Bounce Back

WIR Week 14

The Chargers late rally fell short in Las Vegas.

The Week 13 loss moved the Bolts to 6-6 and with five games remaining on the schedule, the margin for error is thin if they want to make a final playoff push in the AFC.

Here's a breakdown of news from the Chargers 14th week of the season:

Monday: A tough loss

Five games to go.

The Chargers dropped a road game against the Raiders on Sunday, dropping them to 6-6 on the year.

While the defense did get off to a fast start in Week 13 with a fumble recovery and a Pick 6, it was evident from the beginning that the offense would be placed under immediate pressure.

Due to injuries, the Bolts rolled out a starting offensive line that included three different players than they had in Week 1.

But Chargers Head Coach Brandon Staley said a new-look unit wasn't the sole reason for the high-pressure rate, as they failed to also get the running game going that would have allowed them to take some pressure off.

"I think the cumulative effect of all those factors adds up to the pressure. I think that being behind in the game — late in the game, when you're having to work your way back, when you're down 24-13 — that's a contributing factor," Staley said. "At the beginning of that ball game, I think you could tell that their gameplan was to try and heat it up and force people to be on islands a little bit.

"I thought that we adjusted well throughout the game and made some good protection adjustments as the game went on," Staley added. "I liked the communication, in terms of how we were able to get that done."

With tackle Rashawn Slater being out since Week 3, and Trey Pipkins III and Corey Linsley inactive for the game, the offense tried to do its best to keep the pressure off quarterback Justin Herbert.

"There has been pressure the last three weeks, that's for sure, but I think that Justin has done a good job of protecting the football. I've mentioned that in other weeks, but I think it has been a bright spot for us," Staley said. "We've been able to protect the football and stay out of those killer takeaways that just give you no chance.

"We're going to keep working hard at it, keep working on our mixture of run and — the types of passes, the type of runs," Staley added. "We're trying to take pressure off of the O-line the best we can. That's such a big part of what we try to do here. We're going to keep working hard at it as we go, try to get some guys healthy on the O-line and keep it moving."

As for the message moving forward?

At 6-6 and reaching the final stretch of the season, wide receiver Joshua Palmer and the team know what they have to do, and the second-year receiver said it Monday — they know they have to win.

"We know we have to win," Palmer said. "That's pretty much it. We know we have to win the rest of our games if we want to make it to the playoffs.

"Like I said earlier, our playoffs started last week," Palmer added. "We just have to do our jobs."

Also on Monday, Staley updated some injuries that occurred during the game.

"Sebastian [Joseph-Day] has an MCL sprain," Staley said. "We will know a little bit more, in terms of his status for this week, in the next few days."

"[G] Zion [Johnson] had a shoulder injury. He was able to come back. He's going to be day-to-day," Staley added. "[CB] Bryce Callahan has a core muscle injury, and he kind of had one going into the game. He was a competitor and gave it a go for us. He's going to be day-to-day with that."

Tuesday: Where the Chargers stand in the AFC

In terms of standings, the Chargers didn't move up or down from the ninth spot they occupied heading into Week 13.

Still, with other results shaking out the way they did on Sunday, the Bolts missed a chance to move up.

With five games remaining, Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith broke down the AFC Playoff Picture as it stands and where the Bolts stand.

Smith wrote:

The Chargers missed a chance to make a move in Week 13. Now, the Bolts face a tall task at home against the Dolphins. The Chargers could likely still afford to lose one game the rest of the way, but players said Sunday in the postgame locker room that their mindset is to win out to give themselves a shot at the postseason.

To read Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith's full AFC playoff picture breakdown, click here.

Wednesday: Crunch time

The middle of the week looked a bit different for the Bolts this week.

Wednesday was a walk-through for the team, as they gear up for their third primetime game in five weeks.

Only a game back from a playoff spot in the AFC, Staley says the team knows they will have to play their best down the stretch, but also realize the importance of not looking too far ahead.

"We're a game out in the AFC. We have to search to play our best football down the stretch and find that formula each week," said Staley. "I think that's what we have had to do all season is really week to week, we have really had to adapt every week to a new week.

"That's how the NFL is and that is how this week is going to be versus Miami, is finding that formula for this game with the group that we have that is going to be at the game," Staley added. "We're going to be working hard at practice, get our team back physically for this game, and then go try to play our best."

For the Chargers, every game since the bye week has been like a playoff game according to Staley.

Consistency from here on out is everything, and it starts against Miami on Sunday.

"Every game is positioning you for the postseason," Staley said. "I think that what we're trying to establish here is that every week, we want there to be that same approach. Every week has the same approach. The NFL demands your respect that way.

"That's what we're trying to do is have consistency in our approach and find a way to play our best football down the stretch because that's what needs to happen in order for you to make a run," Staley added.

Wide receiver Mike Williams has been out with an ankle injury since Week 11, but will be on the practice field this week according to Staley's weekly injury updates on Wednesday.

"Mike Williams, you will see him at practice this week," Staley said.

With Wednesday only being a walk-through, participation was estimated. The wide receiver was listed as a limited participant — his first time on the practice field in over two weeks.

As for injury updates on the offensive line, Linsley participated in a limited fashion while Pipkins did not participate on Wednesday.

"Corey is progressing through the protocol," Staley said. "Trey Pipkins will not be at practice tomorrow when we go full."

Safety Derwin James, Jr., did not practice on Wednesday with a quadricep injury Staley says it was the "same residual" from that game.

Joseph-Day, who suffered a knee injury late in the Week 13 loss, also did not participate in the Wednesday walk-through.

Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith released his weekly mailbag on Wednesday, where he answered questions about the Chargers trying to find consistency, the Miami offense and more.

In Week 14 against the Dolphins, the Bolts will also showcase the causes that are most important to them through the NFL's My Cause, My Cleats initiative. Many players will sport cleats that bring awareness to a number of topics.

One of those players, wide receiver DeAndre Carter spoke to Smith about representing the diabetic community with his cleats. To read the full feature, click here.

Thursday: Miami's offense; Status of the O-Line

The Chargers will face off against one of the most explosive offensive teams in the league on Sunday.

With receivers like Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle and more, the Dolphins present intriguing matchups that very few teams in the league do.

"We just have to continue to focus on it because we have another challenge of two really good receivers coming in here," Chargers Defensive Coordinator Renaldo Hill said. "That's going to be the challenge, this week, to get it done."

That's not to say that they will be able to overlook the pair of Dolphins running backs that have show they can hurt teams.

Hill complimented Dolphins running backs Raheem Mostert and Jeff Wilson, as he acknowledged the importance of neutralizing the Dolphins run game in addition to stopping them in the air.

"We have to make sure that we take care of those backs and make sure that we take care of the run game first," Hill said. "We know that is a tough task, even when you have two receivers out there. But we know that it all starts with the run game because if they can express that, then it opens up so much more.

"There is definitely going to be an emphasis on stopping the run and putting them into some tough passing situations," Hill added.

On offense, the Bolts will hope to build some continuity on the offensive line that was hurt by injuries against the Raiders.

Pipkins remained out of practice on Thursday, working out on the side. Linsley, however, practiced in full for the first time since suffering a concussion against the Cardinals in Week 12.

The offensive line has been a key spot for the Chargers so far this season, especially this past Sunday. But, Chargers Offensive Coordinator Joe Lombardi has liked the way they have fought through it, and a full week of practice will be beneficial.

"I think those guys are battling," Lombardi said. "There was a number of in-game adjustments that happened, guys moving around. [G/T Brendan] Jaimes coming in. Losing a player for a few plays here and there. So just the continuity, that gets difficult.

"I think we trust all of those guys," Lombardi added. "When they are in there for practice for the whole week working together, it's one thing. Then when all of a sudden pieces are moving around, it becomes more challenging."

James, Callahan, Joseph-Day and Pipkins all did not participate in practice on Thursday, while Clapp was limited. Everyone else practiced in full.

Also on Thursday, Chargers Senior Writer Eric Smith talked with linebacker Drue Tranquill about balancing fatherhood and full-time starting role ahead of the Dolphins primetime matchup. To read Smith's full feature on Tranquill, click here.

Members of the Dolphins also talked about the Chargers ahead of their Week 14 primetime matchup. Check out what Miami said about the Bolts.

Check out the best photos of the Chargers Thursday practice at Hoag Performance Center

Friday: Injury updates as Week 14 approaches

The Chargers took the field for the final time in preparation for Sunday's primetime game against the Dolphins, and got a little more clarity on who will be out there.

James (quadricep), Joseph-Day (knee), Callahan (groin) and Pipkins (knee) were all listed as "DOUBTFUL" for Sunday, meaning more than likely, other players on the defense will step into bigger roles.

"It'll be a big challenge for us, regardless if we had all of our players out there," Staley said. "They've got a really good skill group, they've been prolific scoring the football, moving the football.

"Our guys have had a really good week of practice, and I know that if we have they have to go into that game with some different guys, they're going to be well-prepared and that we're going to give them a gameplan that gives them a chance to go out and compete."

If James is unable to go, Staley says there will be some slight changes to groupings, but their familiarity with the group of players who would step in allows them to know how to play to their strengths.

"The thing is, our guys who are going to go out there have played in games, we know how to use them," Staley said. "We know the group that we're playing against. We're going to try and play to the strengths of the group like we always do."

"I've been really pleased with the way we've practiced this week, and I'm excited to see our guys on Sunday night," Staley later added.

On the flip side, Mike Williams will be ready to go on Sunday — his first action since Week 11 against Kansas City.

With Williams, Allen and the rest of the receiver group only playing a limited number of snaps together, Sunday could be the first time all season that they have played a full game if all goes well.

"It's always a tough situation when you don't have those guys out there," Herbert said. "They're two of the best to do it. Anytime you have both those guys out there, something special is going to happen."

"Those guys have fought and competed," Herbert later added. "They're both trying to get out there as best as they can so, whatever happens, happens."

The only other player with an injury designation for Sunday was tight end Richard Rodgers, who was listed as "QUESTIONABLE". Everyone else came off the report.

Prior to Friday's practice, Smith talked with Daniel Oyefusi, who covers the Dolphins for the Miami Herald, to preview Sunday's matchup.

Check out the best photos of the Chargers Friday practice at Hoag Performance Center

Videos of the Week

Mic'd Up | Keenan Allen

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Derwin James, Jr. Named 2022 Walter Payton Man of the Year Nominee

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Chargers Weekly | Playoff Push Starts on SNF vs. Dolphins

Matt "Money" Smith and Chris Hayre recap the Chargers Week 13 loss to the Raiders in Las Vegas and preview Sunday's primetime game against the Dolphins.

Game Day In The Control Room At SoFi Stadium

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